Review Summary: Taking steps forward, back, left, right…. Actually, I have no idea where we’re going anymore.
Have you ever wondered what the creative processes for some musicians are" Sometimes artists like to sneak in certain influences in their music in order to differentiate their sound and albums. With a critical ear, we can often hear different sorts of inspirations from other facets of music in the artists that we follow. The revival and use of 80’s style pop music in a number of modern, mainstream musicians is a good example of this. With the post-hardcore band Issues’ second studio album, Headspace
, their implementation of outside influences is a little too obvious. In fact, it’s a bit baffling as to how they came to some of their musical decisions.
Instead of focusing on one genre to draw inspiration from, Headspace
presents itself as this widespread celebration of a number of genres of music. This can be seen in nearly every track on the album. “Flojo” is a song heavily influenced by Swing and Ska music, “Yung & Dum” is coated in flavors of Country, and “Rank Rider” is influenced by Blues and Soul. This album has a very wide sound palette and some of these ideas work very well, others have a tendency to fall flat.
, Issues show that something different doesn’t equal something good, but they also show that something different has the potential to be something great. The best example of both of these aspects of Headspace
are represented in the track “Blue Wall,” a song that opens up with this uninspired and empty guitar chugging that permeates the entire song, but occasionally bleeds into a jazzy guitar verse that seems like it’d fit on a James Bond soundtrack.
For every innovative and unique thing Issues do, they decide to bog it down with this edgy, bottomed-tuned guitar chugging. All of the metalcore and post-hardcore portions of Headspace
are monotonous palm-muted breakdowns that are indistinguishable between each song. For the sheer amount of genre variance and exploration Issues works with on Headspace,
it’s ironic that they don’t do anything to experiment with the genre of music that they do identify with. Some more inventive guitar work and a lack of generic post-hardcore tropes could have broken up the empty points of the record.
The best songs on this album are the ones that minimize the metalcore foundation the band has pioneered itself on, or try to reinvent it in a new way. Take “Flojo” for example, this song uses low tuned guitar string bending to try to mimic a refrain on a 1930’s swing song and the result is an interesting novelty and experiment with musical genres. The same could be said about the songs “Rank Rider” and “Hero” which try to implement Soul and RnB into their key sound and these songs are a more refreshing portion of the record.
The worst songs on the record, consequently, are also the ones that try to do something different but to no avail. “Yung & Dum,” in example, is a song that tries to implement this blend of pop-punk, metalcore and country music and the result is as garish and cringeworthy as it sounds. It even features a cheesy, contrived country local laden verse to boot. Ideas like this are hard to swallow or take seriously and they feel more gimmicky than they do genuine.
In Issues' attempt to minimize their post-hardcore sound, they also reduce the amount of time vocalist Michael Bohn spends screaming. He instead spends a decent amount of Headspace
acting as second singer to Tyler Carter and that new role is an odd one. His singing voice is raspy and punk influenced, but it also isn’t anywhere near as good as Carter's. Sometimes this new dynamic of the two vocalists works, like in the song “Home Soon,” but more often than not it feels like an attempt to just give Bohn more playtime on the record, even if it isn’t necessary.
Lyrically this album falls into 3 different categories. At times it can seem like a poem written by an angsty 14 year-old, like in the song “Someone Who Does:”
For the grudges of all the nights you didn’t tuck us into bed
Never showing up to my games
Never taking us to arcades
Seems like nothing has changed
When you don’t show up for my shows
Sometimes there are these wannabe tough guy lines like: In the desert heat on my grind while you’re wasting my skrilla
or You’re talking that *** and you blowing that smoke,
But your card got declined at the nightclub.
Other times Issues gives some solid writing, like on the song “Hero,” which presents itself as this anthem against figures who deitize themselves for profit:
Pray to these fake relatable gods
Pay them for attention till they get off
Fake, fake it till you make
Enough to buy some faith from who
Is dumb enough to pray to you
is a hit-or-miss album. It’s a record that bites off more than it can chew with it’s influences. It’s also a record that doesn’t show any maturity or experimentation with the genre of music that it's accustomed to. Issues spend a majority of Headspace
being a gimmick. They let their influences consume their identity and sound. In attempt to be different, Issues forget what makes their own genre of music special.